A shockingly new leadership style has come to D.C., and in the long run, there likely will be serious negative consequences, says expert on leadership and team effectiveness

An authoritarian style does not work best when it comes to complex, dynamic environments, research shows

Release Date: April 12, 2017

“An authoritarian command and control style is highly directive and even dictatorial. It occurs when someone is trying to change a huge system in rapid motion and there is no room for debate, dissent or conflicting ideas. Not only are poor decisions made in that kind of a world, but people think, ‘why should I be loyal to this agency anymore when I am not valued or appreciated and my opinions are not respected.’”
Paul Tesluk, dean in the School of Management
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO – During Donald Trump’s first two weeks as President of the United States, one thing has remained consistent according to news reports – leaks coming out of D.C.

That doesn’t surprise Paul Tesluk, dean and professor in the University at Buffalo School of Management, who studies leadership, organizational culture and team effectiveness. The steady flow of leaks – what was said during Trump’s calls with the Mexican president and Australian prime minister, who knew (or didn’t know) about Trump’s controversial immigration travel ban – is likely a direct result of the president’s command and control leadership style, Tesluk says.

“An authoritarian command and control style is highly directive and even dictatorial. It occurs when someone is trying to change a huge system in rapid motion and there is no room for debate, dissent or conflicting ideas,” Tesluk says. “Not only are poor decisions made in that kind of a world, but people think, ‘why should I be loyal to this agency anymore when I am not valued or appreciated and my opinions are not respected.’ This leadership style creates a toxic climate.”

Tesluk’s research has found that shared leadership is the most effective for complex, dynamic environments, especially those undergoing major change. Relying on a single leader to make decisions is dangerous, his research shows, and leads to a toxic work atmosphere.

So what is Tesluk’s advice to White House staffers and career federal employees struggling to make sense of a management style seldom seen in the Oval Office?

It won’t be easy he says, but finding constructive and protected mechanisms to speak up when necessary. Staffers should try and be as agile as possible, and definitely expect the unexpected. The unpredictable, Tesluk says, will be the new normal.

For some, there are protected routes to take to share some of their concerns, and that might be the best way to cope, he says.

The command and control leadership style, Tesluk says, does not really allow for much interaction, and as a result, the next few weeks of this administration will be quite telling.

“Will the administration learn from the first couple weeks? Will things be more thoughtful, carefully planned?” he says. “During the campaign the chaos worked, but running a complex organization is much different. Things need to be well-thought out. The best type of organizations are run by shared leadership where expertise is shared among different members of a team.”    

Media Contact Information

Rachel Stern
Associate Director of National/International Media Relations
Faculty Experts
Tel: 716-645-9069
rstern2@buffalo.edu